Europe: A Natural History, BBC4

by | Feb 15, 2005 | All

What to say of you liked it

A fascinating illumination of the creation of our continent, beautifully illustrated with CGI representation of the most epochal events in its history.

What to say of you didn’t like it

A grossly underwhelming dramatic history of Europe in which the viewer was expected to follow the fortunes of granite, sandstone and limestone as though they were the imperilled protagonists in a disaster movie.

What was good about it?

• The spectacular manmade European landscapes from the patchwork fields to the endless vineyards.

• To illustrate how the continent would have looked millennia ago various landmarks were transported back in time so the Eiffel Tower stood in the midst of a thick jungle, a tube station sat shivering in one of the many ice ages (like yesterday), and pterosaurs soared between Oxford’s Dreaming Spires.

• We learned many things about the geological history of Europe such as that it was bordered in the west by an ancient mountains of which the remnants still run from Ireland, through Scotland to Norway.

• And that the forest that once engulfed the whole continent was inhabited by huge bugs such as two metre long millipedes and giant scorpions. And how, after many seismic geological shifts, these forests died through lack of moisture and became the continent’s bounteous coal seams.

• Along with the coal seams, other reasons were explained for why Europe is such a fruitful continent such as the widespread limestone rock that is ideal building material and the fertile ground of the vineyards of France, both of which were formed when Europe was underwater.

• Sean Pertwee’s suitably awestruck narration.

What was bad about it?

• The scenes lifted directly from the excellent Walking With Dinosaurs, but the anthropomorphic beasts who slotted in well to that narrative seemed incongruous

in a purely factual documentary as we had the evil glares of velociraptors eyeing timid iguanodons and a wizened old pterosaur lying in self-pitying crumpled heap on the beach waiting to die like an old man on a hospital trolley.

• Krakow was pronounced Krak-ow not Krak-ov. If this was on Five we’d let it pass, but not on BBC4 the supposed “place to think”.

• Some of the aquatic special effects not procured Walking With Dinosaurs seemed to have come from the least convincing episodes of Stingray.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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